Midwives' perspectives of continuity based working in the UK: A cross-sectional survey

Midwifery. 2019 Aug:75:127-137. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2019.05.005. Epub 2019 May 7.


Objective: UK policy is advocating continuity of midwife throughout the antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal period in order to improve outcomes. We explored the working patterns that midwives are willing and able to adopt, barriers to change, and what would help midwives to work in continuity models of care.

Design: A cross-sectional survey.

Setting: 27 English maternity providers in the seven geographically-based 'Early Adopter' sites, which have been chosen to fast-track national policy implementation.

Participants: All midwives working in the 'Early Adopter' sites were eligible to take part.

Method: Anonymous online survey disseminated by local and national leaders, and social media, in October 2017. Descriptive statistics were calculated for quantitative survey responses. Qualitative free text responses were analysed thematically.

Findings: 798 midwives participated (estimated response rate 20% calculated using local and national NHS workforce headcount data for participating sites). Being willing or able to work in a continuity model (caseloading and/or team) was lowest where this included intrapartum care in both hospital and home settings (35%, n = 279). Willingness to work in a continuity model of care increased as the range of intrapartum care settings covered decreased (home births only 45%, n = 359; no intrapartum care at all 54%, n = 426). A need to work on the same day each week was reported by 24% (n = 188). 31% (n = 246) were currently working 12 h shifts only, while 37% (n = 295) reported being unable to work any on-calls and/or nights. Qualitative analysis revealed multiple barriers to working in continuity models: the most prominent was caring responsibilities for children and others. Midwives suggested a range of approaches to facilitate working differently including concessions in the way midwife roles are organised, such as greater autonomy and choice in working patterns.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that many midwives are not currently able or willing to work in continuity models, which includes care across antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal periods as recommended by UK policy.

Implications for practice: A range of approaches to providing continuity models should be explored as the implementation of 'Better Births' takes place across England. This should include studies of the impact of the different models on women, babies and midwives, along with their practical scalability and cost.

Keywords: Caseload Midwifery; Continuity of Patient Care; Maternal Health Services/Organization & Administration; Midwifery; Models of Care; Team Midwifery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / standards*
  • Maternal Health Services / trends
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Midwives / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Workload / psychology
  • Workload / standards